Spring is here…

Which must mean it’s time for messing around with some infrareds on a warm sunny day….

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Everything still works as it should! Black skies and water, white vegetation and clouds.

It’s good to see the IR effect again after a long wet winter. Fresh foliage seems to reflect more IR wavelength light than older grass and leaves so the ‘Wood Effect‘ is especially pronounced.

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Here’s the setup – an RX100 with R72 filter held on a Lensmate filter attachment. A much better arrangement than just holding the filter over the lens, this little gadget is very useful. The AG-R1 grip is also attached and transforms the RX100’s handling (get one!).

All shot at the ’28mm’ focal length (really 10.4mm) at f2, ISO 800 with a +1 stop exposure compensation to allow hand held speeds of between 1/30th of a second and 1/8th of a second. These were processed in DXO Optics Pro 9 using the ‘Dense’ black and white conversion – straight from the camera they have a very intense magenta hue. A slight ‘diffuse glow’ was added in Photoshop to give it that old Kodak IR film look.

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A bit more abstract here – fresh growth in a pond with some clouds reflected.

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Same bridge – but from the other side.

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More of a traditional landscape really – the vegetation at the lower right seems to be ‘reaching into’ the frame.

Not a bad result for some gentle messing about – more a practice for later in the year.

Hope you like them, thanks for looking!

 

Last Few Weeks

Not many posts over the last few weeks as I’ve been completely absorbed in planning a complex time lapse video project. Some stills have been taken despite recent developments, so here are the best ones, though it’s a pretty random selection!

First – a plastic lensbaby shot of some fresh leaves with the sunlight edging in from behind. The flare, sharpness and chromatic aberration are terrible by conventional standards, but working with a lensbaby is primarily about finding shooting situations where that doesn’t matter.

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Next a Sony RX100 shot of a dumped TV in a pond on the nearby heathland. This is very unusual as most people respect the area, but there are always those who don’t. The contrast between the disposable consumer goods dumped in an ancient landscape provided a striking contrast.

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This time a macro with the venerable 50mm f3.5 OM system lens mounted on extension tubes on a Canon 60D to get a really close focus. The subject is just a crow’s feather found in the garden – always a fascinating subject.

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Finally an off centre shot with the Helios 85mm f2 of a weathered ‘sculpture’ (can’t think of a better word) near a church door.

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All pictures for the book cover market – as always. Hope you like them!

Compact Camera vs DSLR – a silly comparison?

Most keen photographers have always faced a dilemma – their DSLR (or SLR for those who still use film) and standard zoom produce very good results, but carrying one all the time is a pain and opportunities are everywhere! A small camera is the solution, but small digital cameras are usually compromised by limited ISO performance, they’re not often that small and even their best results aren’t as good – at least that’s what I’ve found having used several (small film cameras are a different matter). A test is in order…

So to see if things have changed here’s a test between a two-year old mid range DSLR with an upgraded kit lens against a new top of the range compact. Not a fair test on the surface, but who said anything about fair? The differences in size and weight are obvious but the results are a bit of a surprise….

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The APSC sensor format Canon 60D with interchangeable EF-S 15-85mm (24-135mm equiv) lens on the left, Sony RX100 with smaller one inch sensor on the right with a fixed 28-100mm lens. The 60D boasts 18Mp, the RX100 20Mp – a negligible difference in practice.

The Canon has been used consistently for over two years, and has never failed to impress over ten thousand images with a wide variety of lenses. The Sony is relatively new (three months)  but is up to 1000 shots already. It’s images are more ‘consumer’ oriented with brighter colours and what looks like more sharpening, but very good nevertheless.
The Sony’s lens is a bright f1.8 to f4.9 across it’s zoom range, the 15-85mm a more modest f3.5 to f5.6. I’ve no complaints about the handling of either camera, neither having any irritating quirks which would drive you mad. My personal choice for useable maximum ISO is 800 on the RX100 but the Canon can be pushed further to 3200 in an emergency.

The Sony is doing a lot of processing to work around the design compromises of fitting such a tiny fast lens into a small body. Here’s a close up (ish) wide angle image with distortion correction on and off (done in the Sony Raw converter). Although the correction is done very well my initial thoughts would be that this much correction must result in poor edge performance – we’ll see! It’s worth stressing that this correction has to be explicitly switched off in the RAW converter to see this – you won’t see it on the camera’s replay function or in JPGs or RAWs by default.

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Sony -distortion correction on and off

The main ‘problem’ with the Sony is the colour rendition – reds, greens and yellows are all a bit ‘off’ for my taste, but shooting in RAW and using a correcting colour profiles in ACR (see Maurizio Piraccini’s website here) fixes the problem to give a more subtle result.

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Corrected colour – here a red postbox, the corrected on the left and the straight RAW to JPG result on the right. DPReview found the same thing in their (much more scientific and exhaustive) test.

So – on to the mini test and it will be familiar to anyone who’s read the film and lens test from earlier in the year – there’s a lot more vegetation now though! All shots in RAW and converted to JPG using the supplier’s RAW converter. The Canon’s ISO setting was 100, the Sony’s 125 (it’s native ISO). I haven’t worried about colour here as it’s important to compare default outputs.

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Wideangle on both lenses – the 15-85mm Canon is a bit wider than the Sony – 24mm vs 28mm, but not significant for these tests.

Starting at max aperture, this definitely a surprise and a significant difference. The Sony is producing very sharp results (it’s sharpening is at a higher level by default), and the edges which have been heavily ‘corrected’ aren’t bad at all.

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Canon – 15mm setting f3.5. Centre and top right crops.

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Sony 28mm setting f2. f1.8 would gave resulted in more overexposure.  Centre and top right crops.

At mid apertures things are much more even – mid apertures usually produce the best results in all lenses.

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Canon – 15mm setting f5.6. Centre and top right crops.

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Sony 28mm setting f4.5. Centre and top right crops.

On to approximately a 50mm setting :-

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Canon at 50mm f5 (max aperture at this focal length) and excellent.

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Sony at around the same focal length (not exactly – hence the slightly different edge crop – apologies). This is good too!

Finally at tele setting – 135mm equiv on the Canon, 100mm on the Sony.

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Canon at 85mm f5.6 (max aperture at this focal length) – bit soft at the edge but OK.

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So definitely a surprise. I checked then double checked that the images were correctly attributed, but it was right first time! The little Sony is matching or even exceeding the Canon 15-85mm in terms of sharpness and detail, as well as having a wider maximum aperture. As I remember this lens alone cost as much as the compact camera!

The differences are probably down to the default sharpening parameters in the Sony, and highly polished image optimisation for a fixed zoom lens – the Canon can have hundreds of different lenses attached and can’t optimise images ‘in camera’ for all of them.

The Sony isn’t a replacement for the 60D – far from it. There’s no optical viewfinder for a start (composing on an LCD in bright sunshine is pure guesswork), the lens is fixed and the 60D’s sharpness and colour rendition is much more neutral and allow more latitude in post processing. Having said that, the RX100 is producing very impressive results without any work in terms of sharpness, and the ability to tweak the results in pp means that the gap between DSLR’s and compacts has definitely narrowed and I can use the RX100 with confidence in most situations.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

p.s I’m, not (unfortunately) sponsored by Canon or Sony – just using the cameras….

Yet More RX100 Infrareds!

Dorset is experiencing something weird this year – summer! The skies are clear, the temperatures are hitting 30 degrees C and for people used to cloudy wet summers with just a glimpse of sunshine now and then it’s all most disturbing…..

So using this hot weather as an excuse to shoot yet more infrared handheld on the unmodified RX100 (with an R72 filter) , here we go.

First, a few of the pedestrian bridges over the River Stour near Tarrant Crawford – the leaves and grasses radiating IR like mad. All taken at 28mm setting at f1.8 using RAW, the ‘Black and White’ creative setting (for composition) and +1 exposure compensation.

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This is the next bridge along – the field boundary is heavily overgrown on either side which help isolate the dark path.

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And the same view but in landscape orientation with a lower contrast – can’t make my mind up which of the two is best. _DSC0948_DxOFP

Finally a small avenue of trees taken on the same day, the shadows on the road being an integral part of the composition.

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As usual, all taken for the book cover market – hope you like them!

Abandoned Military Installation

Here’s a few more from a day on Portland (Dorset UK). These abandoned buildings are part of a Victorian artillery battery built on the island and abandoned decades ago. The subject was perfect for a drop more IR on the Sony RX100 (what a surprise) – so here we go. All shot at the 28mm setting at f1.8 handheld – the camera is unmodified.

This is a view down one of what I suppose was the tracks which brought ammunition from the stores to the gun positions – the concrete walkway over the rails is unexpected…

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Portland is great for this sort of shot – the island was heavily used by the military then handed over to prison services and much of that dark architecture remains. Can’t resist barbed wire!

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Back to the main fortification and some overgrown steps leading out of the depression in the ground which houses the gun position. _DSC0763_DxOFP

Finally a view of some of what I suppose were store houses, the sparse grassy vegetation slowly growing over the banks and stone. _DSC0754_DxOFP

Altogether a wonderful spot – and good weather for IR photography. The R72 filter has got to be left at home for a while now. That and the plastic Lensbaby are taking up too much time!

Thanks for looking – hope you like them.

Infrared on Portland (Dorset)

A few infrareds from a great day in Weymouth and Portland in superb sunny weather. All taken on using the Sony RX100 and R72 filter, post processed in DXO to tweak the contrast.

This cemetery has some of the best monuments in the area – and a great subject for IR against a clear blue sky with some high cloud to give some texture. These are two of the most impressive.

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This is the first statue complete with broken wing from the rear – the bright dot in the sky is flare from the lens. The RX100 produces some very complex flare (see later article).

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Finally a closer view of another monument. This camera produces very high IR quality images. better than my old IR digital camera, a Fuji F810.

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Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

Another Good Day for Infrared…

Been up on the chalk downland again – and wide open spaces in the sunshine have to mean one thing, Infrared.  All hand-held using the Sony RX100 + R72 filter and heavily post-processsing in Photoshop and DXO.

The conditions were perfect – light broken cloud and strong sunshine which means some texture in the sky an a strong infrared response.

This is the remains of an old field boundary – these thorn bushes are all that’s left in an otherwise empty landscape.

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This road is beautifully straight. running along a long shallow valley. I did a few of this as the contrast between the tarmac and the ir-reflecting vegetation was very strong.

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Slightly different post-processing on this one to allow the whites of the grass to burn out a little – usually a sin but worked out well for this one.

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Finally one in a favoutite location, where the clear chalk stream turns a bend, and a line of poplar trees makes a nice background.

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Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

Just Wandering Around…

A few more from the Sony RX100 – and no infrared at least for a short while. As the weather in the UK (Dorset at least) has suddenly broken, and after a cold spring, late spring/summer has finally arrived. The late summer has resulted in every plant bursting out in one go, flowers and pollen everywhere…

This first one is using’ the Toy Camera’ JPEG setting, plus a -1 exposure compensation to make sure the yellow colour channel isn’t blown out (the green/yellows of this camera are over saturated).

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  This one uses the ‘Rich Tone Mono’ setting where three shots at different exposures are combined to extend the dynamic range. The whites of the flowers are a bit overexposed – my fault – but it’s a nice image.

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  “Short while” over …. I couldn’t resist two more infra-reds – processed as per the last post. When you’ve got an IR R72 filter in your pocket and a sunny day on the heath – well what can you do?

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  This tree is ancient – growing on an old Roman road running from Badbury Rings to Salisbury and this is the first shot I’ve got of it which I’m happy with.

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Thanks for looking – hope you like them.

A Good Day for Infrared!

A few more from the Sony Rx100 plus R72 filter – on a very good day for infrared. All hand held at 800ISO 1/8th to 1/25th of a second at 28mm f1.8 +1.3 exposure compensation. The image stabilisation seems to work well most of the time even at these slow speeds. Shot in Raw at 20MP, then via DNG format and ACR to Photoshop and converted to B/W using one of the presets which seems to provide the best contrast.

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This is the road to an old Dorset bridge near Sturminster Marshall (White Mill Bridge). The sky this morning was superb!

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Here’s the Mill – taken from the same location as the lens tests earlier in the year. The vegetation has well and truly taken over and reflecting IR like crazy.

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Slightly different view and a nice contrast between the bright greenery and the shadows.

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Finally the bridge from the other side – the signpost is nice and sharp so all in all a good result.

If I can only leave the IR filter at home I’ll try to take some normal shots soon…..

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

Five Hundred Shots (and Two Weeks) with a Sony RX100

I’ve been hunting around for a pocket camera which can produce commercial quality images for some time now, and I’ve finally found one which fits the bill. This mini-test describes some ‘first impressions’ after a few weeks.

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Good colour and exposure in macro mode – good start!

In order to be useful it needed to replace my old Canon G9 (which has done a brilliant job as a “carry everywhere” workhorse), be truly pocketable and have around 18-25 Mp resolution to prevent excessive image resizing to meet minimal agency requirements. It must also shoot RAW to give the widest flexibility in post processing….

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Unbelievably small!

Here’s another on a CD with the roll of 35mm film – it really is tiny!

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The lens is a 28-100mm equivalent, f1.8 to f4.9. f4.9 is slow for a 100mm lens – however my Canon 15-85mm zoom on the 60D is f5.6 at 85mm so it’s not that bad! In bright light, the 1/2000th of a second shutter isn’t fast enough for f1.8 at 28mm so a neutral density filter is needed if you want to get shallow depth of field effects (it can be held over the lens).

The physical controls are very configurable – I’ve assigned ISO to the rotating ring around the lens mount, and exposure compensation, image quality, DRO optimisation level, AF mode etc to the Fn button. In aperture priority mode the rear control dial varies the aperture, and it all works well. The camera keeps up well with frantic setting changes so no complaints.

20Mp image quality is very good with low noise to to ISO 800 – about the same normal working range I’d use on the 60D. The large sensor is obviously making a significant difference.

Sharpness at 28mm and f1.8 is a bit weak probably due to distortion correction, but cleans up by f2.5. At longer focal lengths its sharp enough across the frame for me.

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Test shot in good light – colours tweaked from the default using an ACR colour profile (see later). 18mm, f5.6, 1/500th at ISO 100.

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Centre of the frame – the lens is sharp enough to pick out some telephone wires behind the tree which is impressive.

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Edge definition is fine too.

The Sony RAW converter is OK – but converting the ARW files to DNG format with Adobe’s RAW converter then using Adobe Camera RAW processing gives better results with more flexibility. Colour seems a little over saturated in RAW – especially a yellow hue to greens. ACR colour profiles by Maurizio Piraccini here allow for more neutrals results – and add a few colour options (thanks!).

Macro at 28mm and f1.8 is excellent, but the minimum focus distance increases dramatically as the focal length increases. The shallow depth of field at these close focus settings produces some good results – but it’s not a fast 50mm or 85mm on APSC or 35mm.

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Macro and some late bluebells .

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The last of the apple blossom. The slightly curved out of focus background highlights are like those produced by a Zuiko 50mm f1.4.

It reminds me most of a 35mm Minox camera which was a lovely small camera with a fixed sharp 35mm f2.8 lens. I really liked that camera – until it broke through overuse.

The special effects modes (JPEG only) aren’t bad, 10 frames per second is a bit over the top for me, but the multi frame dynamic range options and DRO settings look promising – I’ll do a test at a later date. All in all a very flexible package, and combined with an IR R72 and Neutral density filter (58mm diameter) a very portable one too.

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking.

Sony RX100 does a few more infrareds….

A few more shots from a very good compact camera  with a Hoya R72 filter.

Experimenting with a few different settings, this was taken in JPEG B/W mode then converted in DXO filmpack using a high contrast Ortho film setting. ISO 800 f1.8 at 1/30 of a second in mixed bright/overcast light (the contrast through an R72 filter is very low).

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Next , same settings and a good result shot in RAW and converted to DNG format using ACR RAW converter, then desaturated in red/magenta channels along with a contrast boost.

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Just got to nail the focus and it’s done. This camera should prove to be an excellent carry around camera – worth every penny!

Thanks for looking – hope you like them.

Sony RX100 Does Infrared (First Attempt)….

Just traded in a Canon G9, a Oly EPL3 and a spare OM2n body to raise funds for a new Sony RX100 – and it’s very good so far. So if anyone’s wondering if you can shoot infrared with one the answer is yes!

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A much more subtle range of tones than the Fuji F810 I usually use – not surprising as the Sony’s sensor is huge by comparison with the tiny one in the Fuji.

The R72 filter is just held over the front over the lens, and after a bit of experimentation a +1 exposure compensation and ISO of 400 to 800 ASA allows hand-held exposures at 28mm at f1.8 on a sunny day. Focus is a bit hit and miss. Shooting RAW allows for the inevitable post processing.

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There’s a slight hot spot’ of brightness in the centre but it’s easily edited out. Processing consisting of de-saturating the red and magenta channels (there’s no other colour information).

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In addition to the IR R72 filter, carrying a three stop neutral density filter in a shirt pocket allows the use of the widest apertures in bright conditions for ‘normal’ photography – the minimum shutter speed is 1/2000 th of a second.

Up close the IR results are grainier than a ‘normal’ shot, but at 20MP it’s nowhere near as noticeable as using a 12MP sensor.

With a bit of practice this should be a tiny, versatile camera in conjunction with the two filters.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!